As someone who plays some very quick games, and some very long ones, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned during my years of playing Warhammer 40K that help speed up a game. Newer players will most likely find this more useful than the vets out there but hopefully there’s something in here for the vets too.
Note: I’ve updated this guide for Warhammer 40K 8th edition.
Always Be Planning Your Turn
You should be formulating your strategy as the game unfolds. As your opponent is making his moves you should be considering your response. As you’re losing models from shooting and assault you should be considering your upcoming turn.
Naturally the outcome of your opponent’s turn impacts yours, but if you’re working it out as his/her turn progresses then you have less to consider once you’re up. Do not wait until it’s your movement before you start figuring out what you want to do.
If you’re pondering during your turn, and spending time debating with yourself what to do with each and every unit, then the game will drag on and on and make it far less fun for both of you.
Try to not use dice to mark wounds on a model or hull points on a vehicle. It’s too easy to forgot what those makers are being used for and pick them up to roll.
I use the skull markers that came in the old status effect marker set that Games Workshop put out years ago. I’ve seen others use the glass beads common as makers in other games.
What I like to do is place the psychic power card next to the unit its effecting. I do this for my own units benefiting from blessings and enemy units I’ve applied maledictions to. It’s just so much easier to remember who has what going on this way.
Rulebook & Indexes
Leave the rule checking for when it’s your opponent’s turn or after the game unless it’s critical and/or game altering. You should know the game rules, and your index, well enough to not have to stop every turn, and every phase to reference something.
If your question isn’t going to alter the outcome of the game then just go with what you think it is and look it up later. When in doubt it’s best to err on the side of your opponent and not in your favor. If you both disagree on it then roll it off, or if possible ask an impartial third-party, like a friend or another player.
Write Notes for Units and Special Rules
If you’re new to the game, or trying out an unfamiliar army list or unit, get a sheet of paper and write out the stats and a brief line or two of any special rules and weapon stats that you haven’t memorized. Don’t rely on army builder programs to tell you all the rules. It’s nice as training wheels, but when you rely on those training wheels for too long, and all the time, you can’t ever get up to speed. By writing them down, you increase your ability to memorize them threefold.
Writing it down is simple, easy to read for reference in a way you know (they are your notes), and reduces the gobs of paragraphs and explanations you must skim through if you’re referencing the rule directly in the codex or rulebook.
Explain Your Units and Rules
Before the game starts you should go over your army and explain your units and any special rules they have. If you’re under a time constraint, like at a tournament, then explain as you’re deploying.
In either case, make your opponent aware of what you have. Nobody likes being unaware of something special a unit does until they are on the receiving end of it. Don’t keep things a secret to gain an advantage. It’s unsportsmanlike and will not win you any friends.
Memorizing Weapon Stats
Weapons can be a bit trickier depending on your army, but it’s still well worth the time to memorize them. You don’t want to have to look up your weapon stats every time you’re shooting or assaulting. There are also a lot of weapons that are the same from army to army. A bolter used by a Space Marine is the same stats as a bolter used by Astra Militarum. Most weapons for the Imperium are this way.
Measuring unit movement can take forever if you have an infantry heavy army, at least if you’re measuring each single model in that unit. It’s far faster to measure one model and then move the rest of the models inline in the same formation.
I’ll measure again for models that may need to circle around something or shift position, but for everything else that’s staying in formation there’s no need to keep measuring. You may not be 100% accurate but you’ll be close enough as long as you measured accurately for the first model you moved.
Dice Rolling for a Unit
The shooting phase requires you group your weapons together and roll them separately for each weapon type. If you have 8 bolters then roll all 8 bolters at once, not one model at a time.
Get Dice Ready Ahead of Time
If you can, set up the dice you need to roll ahead of time. If your opponent is collecting his dice to make his assault attacks, and you have another assault to deal with after, then get your dice ready for the other assault. You can do the same with shooting. Once you wound, and your opponent is getting dice together for saves, start getting dice ready for your next unit to fire.
Don’t be readying your dice though once the rolls start, stay focused on what’s going on. Distraction adds time to the game and can cost you in terms of the game.
The common practice for picking up dice once you have rolled is to pick up your failures. This way if you make a mistake it harms you and not your opponent. Sometimes it’s easier though to pick up successes. If you rolled a bucket of dice and only two succeeded then snag those two dice, just make sure your opponent is watching you as you do it.
Even Faster Dice
There’s an official dice rolling app that you can use called Assault Dice. You can set up units ahead of time, quickly roll and pick up dice, do re-rolls, deal with scatters, and anything else you need to do with dice in a 40K game. It’s a HUGE time-saver with armies packing a lot of dice, like Orks and Astra Militarum.
Conclusion for Playing 40K Faster
If you make a point to do these things then you’ll be very surprised how much faster your games go, seriously. All those little things that only took an extra minute add up a lot more than you realize.
Remember, the more efficient you can make your games the more you can play. Not only more games in a day, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to do so, but if a game takes less time out of your day then you can more easily find the time to play them; you don’t have to set aside a 6 hour slot to play.
Do you have any tips for faster 40K games?
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